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Home Training and BehaviorBehavioral Issues Master ‘Let’s Go’: Simple Commands to Improve Your Dog’s Leash Skills

Master ‘Let’s Go’: Simple Commands to Improve Your Dog’s Leash Skills

by Kimberley Lehman

Walking your dog should be a joy, not a tug-of-war. If you’re struggling with leash pulling, lunging, or just general unruliness, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, and let me tell you, mastering a few simple commands can make all the difference.

It’s not just about having a well-behaved walking buddy. It’s about safety, comfort, and enjoying your time together outdoors. I’ll share some straightforward commands that have transformed my walks from stressful to serene. Trust me, with a little patience and consistency, you and your pup can get there too.

Teach Your Dog to “Heel”

As someone who’s spent years trying to perfect the art of walking a dog without pulling, I’ve learned that one essential command stands out above the rest: “Heel.” This isn’t just about making walks easier for me; it’s about ensuring both of us enjoy our time outside to the fullest. Teaching your dog to heel can transform chaotic walks into peaceful strolls.

“Heel” means your dog walks calmly by your side, not dragging you along on an unexpected sprint everytime they see a squirrel. It nurtures a deeper bond between you and your furry friend by fostering mutual respect and understanding.

Breaking It Down

  • Start in a quiet environment to minimize distractions.
  • Use a leash no longer than 6 feet to keep your dog close.
  • Hold treats in the hand nearest your dog to keep their attention on you.
  • Walk and randomly stop. Every time your dog stops with you and looks at you, say “heel” and give them a treat.
  • Gradually introduce more distractions as they improve.

This method hinges on patience and consistency. Don’t expect overnight miracles. Like mastering any new skill, it’ll take time and practice. But the payoff is immense: walks that are more enjoyable and far less stressful for both of you.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement isn’t just a fancy term; it’s the cornerstone of effective dog training. Celebrating your dog’s successes with treats and praises makes learning enjoyable for them. It reinforces their good behavior, making them more likely to repeat it.

  • Always reward good behavior immediately with treats or praise.
  • Ignore unwanted actions rather than scolding. This helps your dog focus on the behaviors that get them rewards.

Through consistent practice and a heap of patience, “heel” can become a natural part of your dog’s behavior. The transformation in your walks won’t just be noticeable; it’ll be a game-changer. You’ll move from being the one pulled along to a team exploring the world side by side. And isn’t that the adventure we’re all hoping for with our four-legged companions?

Practice “Sit” at Every Stop

Teaching your furry friend to “sit” at every stop might seem like a small task, but trust me, it’s a game-changer for enhancing your dog’s leash skills. Whether it’s at the corner before crossing the street, waiting in line at the dog park, or simply pausing during a stroll to chat with a neighbor, this simple command can significantly improve your walks together.

First off, consistency is key. Every time you come to a halt, use a cheerful yet firm voice to command “sit.” It might take a few tries, but patience is your best friend here. Reward compliance with a treat or loving praise to reinforce the behavior. Here’s the thing about dogs – they’re suckers for routine and positive reinforcement. Before you know it, sitting at every stop becomes second nature to them.

Why bother, you ask? Well, here are a few compelling reasons:

  • Safety First: Keeping your dog from darting into the street or getting overly excited can prevent accidents.
  • Improved Focus: Your dog learns to pay attention to you, even in distracting environments.
  • Respectful Public Behavior: It’s comforting to know your dog won’t leap on strangers or other dogs during your outings.

Teaching this command also offers the perfect opportunity to practice and perfect the “heel” command. Having your dog “sit” then “heel” as you resume walking reinforces that they should stay close and attentive to you during walks.

To effectively teach “sit” at every stop:

  • Begin in a quiet environment to minimize distractions.
  • Use a happy tone and treats to encourage and reward the behavior.
  • Gradually introduce the command in more distracting environments to reinforce the behavior.
  • Consistency is crucial—practice makes perfect.

Remember, each dog learns at their own pace. Some might grasp the concept quickly, while others need a bit more time and encouragement. The key is to keep sessions enjoyable and stress-free. Celebrate the small victories, and don’t sweat the setbacks. With patience and consistent practice, your walks will soon be more pleasant and controlled, a testament to your mutual understanding and respect.

Use the “Leave It” Command

So, we’ve talked about the magic of the “sit” command, but what about another staple in your dog-walking toolkit? Yep, I’m diving into the “leave it” command. This one’s a game-changer, especially if you’ve got a curious pup who thinks every sidewalk snack is a gourmet treat.

Initially, “leave it” sounds like you’re taking something away from your furball, but actually, it’s about teaching them that not everything they encounter is theirs for the taking. From rogue pieces of chicken to mystery items that have no business being in their mouths, “leave it” is your verbal guardian angel.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Begin in a Distraction-Free Zone: Just you, your dog, and some treats. Keep it simple.
  • Use Two Types of Treats: I swear by this. Have some that are just okay and others that are super tempting. It’s all about the trade-up game here.
  • The Process: Show them the less enticing treat in your hand. Once they’re focused, close your hand and say “leave it.” No need to shout; you’re not trying to scare anyone. Now, patience is key. Wait until they back off or lose interest, then praise them like they’ve just won “America’s Top Dog” and give them the better treat. It’s all about making better choices.

Practicing “leave it” not only keeps trash-can delicacies out of their mouths but also protects them from potential dangers. Plus, it strengthens their impulse control, making walks more enjoyable.

But don’t just stop there. 

  • Upgrade the Training: Once they’ve mastered the basics at home, try it in the yard, then on walks. Variety is the spice of life, right?
  • Incorporate it Into Walks: Start simple. Ask them to leave mundane things like sticks and move up to the ultimate test—ignoring the siren call of sidewalk chicken bones.

Integrating “leave it” into your daily walks not only boosts your dog’s leash skills but also builds an incredible bond between you two. You’re not just their best friend; you’re the wise guide who shows them the way. 

Master the “Focus” Command

Teaching your furry friend to focus on you instead of squirrels, other dogs, or any other distractions can be a real game-changer in leash training. The “Focus” command does more than just grab your dog’s attention; it’s the foundation for mastering other important commands and significantly improves their leash manners.

Starting out, you’ll want to choose a quiet spot—too much going on will only set you both up for frustration. It’s also crucial to pick a word or phrase that’s not commonly used. “Focus,” “Look,” or even “Eyes on me” can work wonders, but feel free to get creative.

  1. Get Equipped: Have some high-value treats ready. These are treats your dog loves but rarely gets.
  2. Catch Their Eye: Hold a treat close to your face, say your chosen command, and when they look at you, reward them with the treat and praise.
  3. Practice Makes Perfect: Repeat several times in short, upbeat sessions. Keep it fun—no one enjoys a long, drawn-out class.

As your dog gets better at focusing on you with minimal distractions, it’s time to up the ante. Gradually introduce more challenging environments. This progression is crucial. Start in your quiet living room, then maybe your backyard, and eventually a park where squirrels roam free and other dogs jog by.

Remember, patience is key. Not every dog catches on at the same speed, and that’s perfectly fine. Celebrate the small victories along the way—a glance during a bark-fest or choosing to look at you instead of chasing a leaf. These moments are huge in the grand scheme of things.

Plus to treating and praising, make eye contact. As the training becomes more advanced, you can even start phasing out the treats gradually. Your approval and the connection between you become the new rewards.

Incorporating the “Focus” command into daily walks and routine activities takes practice, but it’s worth every minute. This command doesn’t just improve leash skills; it enhances your overall relationship with your dog. They learn to look to you for guidance, which is essential in any situation you might face together during your outdoor adventures.

Implement a Loose Leash Walking Technique

Mastering leash skills is vital for stress-free walks with your furry friend. A cornerstone of this is the loose leash walking technique, which ensures both you and your dog enjoy outings without the pulling and tugging wars.

Loose leash walking stands out as a game-changer. It involves your dog walking calmly by your side, leash slack, granting freedom while maintaining control. This technique not only makes walks more pleasant but also reinforces your role as the leader without resorting to force or fear.

Here’s how I dove into teaching this essential skill:

  • Start in a Distraction-Free Area: I began in my quiet backyard, away from the chaos of squirrels and other dogs. This allowed my dog to focus solely on me and the task at hand.
  • Use High-Value Treats: Just like with the “Focus” command, treats are your best friend here. I used something irresistible to grab my dog’s attention and reward compliance.
  • The Magic of the ‘Let’s Go’ Cue: With leash in hand and treats in the other, I introduced the ‘Let’s go’ cue. This signalled it was time to walk. Anytime my dog stuck by my side, rather than pulling ahead, a treat and praise followed.
  • Gradually Up the Ante: As my dog got the hang of it, I slowly introduced more distractions. We moved from the quiet backyard to a more lively neighborhood setting. It’s crucial to increase difficulty gradually to keep your dog successful.
  • Incorporate Stops and Changes in Direction: To keep things interesting and reinforce control, I added in stops and changes in direction. If my dog surged ahead or pulled, we paused, or I led us in a new direction until the leash was loose again, then rewarded.
  • Phasing Out Treats: Over time, I reduced the number of treats given, substituting with verbal praise and pats. The goal was for my dog to follow cues out of habit and trust, rather than for treats.

Implementing this technique fostered a deeper connection between me and my dog during our outdoor adventures. Teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash doesn’t just improve walks; it enhances your entire relationship, setting the foundation for a lifetime of mutual respect and understanding.


I’ve shared some simple yet effective commands to boost your dog’s leash skills. Remember, mastering these techniques takes time and patience. It’s all about building a stronger connection with your furry friend. So grab those treats, hit your favorite walking spot, and start practicing. Before you know it, you’ll both be enjoying your walks more than ever. Here’s to happy, well-behaved pups and their proud owners!


Kimberley Lehman

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